November 2, 2019

Humpback Whale North of San Juan Island

humpback whale

Sarah | 11/02/2019 | M/V Sea Lion | 12:00pm

Today we had an amazing November day to go out and explore the Salish Sea. With smooth, glassy water, and amazing sunshine we were excited to leave the dock and go out an explore. We elected to head north through San Juan Channel, and right out of the harbor we encountered a bald eagle sitting on the shore ripping into and eating some sort of bird. There were downy feathers scattered all around the enormous bird and we got to see some glaucous-winged gulls trying to grab scraps from around the eagle. We continued north to Flattop Island to see if we could find any more wildlife there. On its rocky shoreline we found some harbor seals hauled out enjoying some afternoon sun.

As we started to pull away from the island something caught my eye… the enormous tail flukes of a humpback whale! Humpback whales are fairly solitary, and today we just encountered an individual hanging out by itself. While we watched the whale we got great looks at its broad back and several great looks at the whale’s tail. Usually we can identify individuals based on the pattern of markings underneath humpback’s tails, after getting a photo of this individual, I could not find it in our catalog! Right now we are experiencing a huge resurgence in our humpback whales in the area, with more and more individuals joining our population every year. To have an unidentifiable whale is not unusual as we see more of these whales coming back to their historic habitat. While we were watching the humpback whale, we also got great looks at some harbor porpoise as well.

Captain Pete and I decided that we wanted to go in search of some other wildlife and look at some water that hadn’t been looked at by any other whale watchers, so we left the humpback whale and went off in search of some critters. We had a glimpse of some Dall’s porpoise and got a great look at Turn Point Lightstation on Stuart Island. We continued on in the placid waters of northern Haro Strait scanning for wildlife. We ended up at Spieden Island, the largest privately owned island in the San Juans, and got a chance to see some of the non-native species of hoofstock that call the island home. We also got peeks at more bald eagles and harbor seals before heading back towards Friday Harbor. It was a lovely day spent on the water enjoying the Salish Sea Marine Ecosystem.


Bird List

Bald eagle

Glaucous-winged gull

Harlequin duck

Pelagic cormorant

Common murre

Pigeon guillemot

Marbled murrelett

Bonaparte’s gull

Common merganser


Filed by:

Captain, Lead Naturalist & Vessel Coordinator

Sarah M.

Sea Lion


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